As we had some travel plans cancelled in August, Mr E and I have really been enjoying exploring our lovely local area. The Chilterns are stuffed full of historic stately homes and manor houses: from Waddesdon Manor, designed in the style of a romantic French Renaissance chateau, to Sir Francis Dashwood’s extravagant, Italianate West Wycombe Park, we have a huge diversity of beautiful buildings to visit. One that might have escaped your radar is Latimer House, now the De Vere Latimer Estate, a stunning mansion house estate that has recently undergone a huge (£7m) refurbishment that has transformed the original mansion house, including a beautifully renovated library, a coffee shop, a brand new restaurant: 1838 Restaurant and Bar, and the new Huntley Bar as well as additional luxury bedrooms and an elegant new reception.
Mr E and I were invited to the reopening but sadly couldn’t make it, but the De Vere Latimer Estate very kindly invited us back to have a look around, and it really is a breathtaking place. Built on the site of an original Elizabethan manor house which was sadly gutted by fire in the early 1830s, the present red brick mansion, constructed in the Tudor style (very similar, I think to nearby Chenies Manor), was completed in 1838 and was once home to the Barons Chesham. During WW2 it became part of a top secret project run by the British Secret Service, housing German prisoners who were then bugged to obtain vital intelligence, and it became known as The Spy House, playing a pivotal information gathering role similar to that of Bletchley Park.
The estate has an elevated position giving stunning views all across the Chess Valley and the gardens at this time of year are a delight, full of scented lavender, blowsy roses and buzzing bumble bees.
We dined in the new 1838 Restaurant & Bar, complete with beautiful glass ceiling and indoor trees that twinkle with fairy lights as it gets dark. 1838 serves a locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable menu and has loads of gluten free and vegetarian options, plus a decent wine list. There’s also a lovely little courtyard garden, also adorned with twinkly lights – sadly it was a bit nippy to sit outside. 1838 has an open kitchen and it’s fascinating to watch the chefs hard at work preparing the menu dishes.
Service is really efficient and friendly (we got chatting to Michelle who has been at the hotel for 20 years and is absolutely lovely), and the food was absolutely faultless. I started with a vegetarian Scotch egg on Michelle’s recommendation and wow, it was delicious, with a perfectly runny yolk and nestled on a smooth sweet/savoury mushroom ketchup.
For my main course, I chose the 12 hour slow cooked sous vide blade of beef which was meltingly soft and tender, in a deeply savoury jus with a hint of redcurrant sweetness. My beef was accompanied by the freshest, sweetest greens and a lovely creamy Dijon mash. YUM. Mr E’s pan-fried sustainable sea bream was soft and fresh with delicious crispy skin and accompanied by sweet, tender seared king scallops. Honestly, it was as much as we could do not to lick the plates.
I was really tempted by the big bowls of Eton Mess that I could see coming out of the kitchen, but decided on the triple chocolate fudge brownie accompanied by poached cherries and vanilla ice cream (it was getting a bit too dark for photos, I’m afraid). Mr E had the biggest cheese board I’ve ever seen and still wouldn’t share.
What a lovely, lovely evening. We took a delightfully lavender-scented after dinner walk in the gardens, accompanied by a few stragglers from the earlier wedding before heading home, full up and very happy! We’ll definitely be back, perhaps to stay in one of the newly refurbished mansion house guest rooms, which sound amazing.
Rooms start from £129 per room per night and for those staying in the mansion house, rooms start from £189 per room per night, based on double occupancy. Many thanks to the De Vere Latimer Estate. For more information visit: www.DeVere.com/